A to Z 2017: GROUND ZERO

The sharp chirps of sirens caused her to subtly stir, but she wasn't able to fully move or even talk. An intense searing pain rippled through her entire body, leaving her paralyzed. It felt as though she was boiling in scalding hot water, her skin bubbling and peeling away.

"Can't this pile of shit go any faster?" The unknown woman's voice was stricken with urgency. There was the slamming of a hand on metal. She could make out the words and sounds, but they were muffled, like she was hearing it under water.

Faster? Each bump and sway she endured sent a jolt through her system. Slowly her sense of smell returned and she was overcome by a strong, pungent smell of burning hair and flesh. A human roast is an image that was constantly brought to the forefront. Or memories of a wicked witch screeching after being exposed to water. Great, I'm melting. Not again.

She reflected how it was one of the least enjoyable experiences she would sometimes undertake in her change of lifestyle. Admittedly, she was confused by how slow the specific recovery process was taking. Fire seemed to stunt the effects, but never at such a slow rate. Being unable to react was a nuisance, to gag or choke or anything. She was only allowed to remain still and take it all in. "Flameboyant" for women. She pondered if she could peddle the scent to a niche market.

An intrusive realization began creeping in, coinciding with a very brief reprieve from the fiery violation of her body — the "Scorched Earth" sensation subsiding to a "Drought Wildfire" category. But her mind was set ablaze with questions about what had happened. She couldn't process and grasp anything specific, which would shed light on her current situation. A whirlwind of memories fluttered just outside her reach. The disconnect between what she had access to and what she had to forcefully dig for was frustrating.

Trying to work through her jumbled thoughts, she became aware that the burning had subsided even more and that her sense of touch was returning. There was something covering her nose and mouth, straps stretching across her face. Her left eyelid fluttered and opened a crack, revealing the back of an ambulance truck. Beside her was a paramedic, she assumed the one making the ruckus earlier, dark curls framing the woman's smooth, chocolate-toned face. She tried to talk, but there was no sound.

"Jesus, she's awake," said a second paramedic on the other side of the gurney she was strapped to. His tone betrayed his disbelief.

This prompted the first to hover over her, reaching and propping her left eye open with gloved fingers. There was a soft click and a flood of light assaulted her, but she was unable to flinch away. "Can you hear me? My name is Sandra." The light attacked her eye from multiple angles."Are you able to talk?" She tried, but still nothing. Why is this taking so long? "I just want you to relax, we're almost to Saint Augustine Medical Center."

Finally, her sight returned and she was able to crone out, "What happened?"

"How about I ask a few questions first. Can you tell me your name?" She tried hard to produce it, but it was mixed together with a sea of names and she wasn't able to determine which was actually hers. There was a strong nagging that there were many things she should be recalling. Important things being tossed around in the ether, taunting her.

"What happened?" she repeated.

Sandra looked to her partner for help, who just shrugged. "There was some kind of attack at Faraday Park. Maybe terrorists, maybe nothing. Maybe a complete freak accident. No one is really sure." The woman's eyes, large and brown, darted back and forth as they scanned her over. "Whatever it was, you were right there in the middle of it all. Ground Zero. We honestly thought you were dead. I have no idea how..."

A tidal wave of memories crashed into her all at once. A nameless man, filled with an unholy rage, attacking anyone and everyone in his path of destruction. Trying to stop him, but being overpowered. Her... son. Oh, God no... Panic wracked her and she began thrashing against her bonds, being funneled a newfound strength. The sudden violent movement scared a scream out of Sandra, while her counterpart jumped into action, trying to hold down their patient.

"I need to get out of here. I need to go back." Her voice was deep and gravely. She could feel her vocal cords repairing. I need to get out of here. Where's my son? I need to find my son.  For what she lacked in audibility she made up for in animation, continually thrusting and straining against her restraints. Both paramedics were trying to secure her, Sandra pleading with her to stop. To calm down.

She heard the two of them shouting at one another while struggling with her discourse, the kicking and punching, before Sandra's course of action dictated sedation. No, please. It was her turn to beg and plead. But the choice was made. Even with her adrenaline-fueled efforts, she was unable to break free and it was too late to convince them otherwise; the needle was already buried beneath her skin.

Slumber was fast approaching.

Thanks for reading! What did you think of the piece? Any constructive criticism is welcomed!